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52x36 vs 50x34

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52x36 vs 50x34

Old 08-27-19, 12:03 PM
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52x36 vs 50x34

I currently have the 105 50/34 cranks on my road bike, but have changed everything else out to be 11 speed Ultegra. Would there be any advantage in changing the crankset to a 52/36? I rarely use the bottom three gears on the cassette (11-28), and usually ride on the big chainring except when climbing or fighting wind.

Thank you for any input.
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Old 08-27-19, 12:28 PM
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I switched from 50-34 to 52-36 on my road bike a little over a year ago. I did it because (1) it gave me more top-end speed before spinning out, and (2) it didn't penalize me much at the low end. I live near a lot of mountain climbs. At the same time I went to 52-36, I also went to 11-34T in the back. With that switch, I didn't lose anything to speak of compared to a 50-34F/11-32R setup.
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Old 08-27-19, 01:05 PM
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My Cervelo came with mid-compact, and I frankly hated it. I would never have been one to guess that a 2-tooth difference could make such a difference, but here we are. I swapped in a set of Praxis compact rings and never looked back. My wife runs "even more compact," with 46/34 rings. AFAIC, a 52 or 53 big ring is for people who are racing, people who like to think that they're racing, and people who never want to use the 11T cog again unless falling down the side of a mountain.
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Old 08-27-19, 02:34 PM
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Not sure how much my anecdotal experience will help. Got into cycling a few months ago. First bike Trek FX had 50/34 and I think 11/34 in the back. I was weak starting out so I appreciated that gearing. Then I got the SuperSix which had 52/36 and 11/28. I was spending a lot of time in weaker gears so the first chance I got I bought a 50/34. Got stronger through lots of riding and when I bought my TCR it came with 52/36 and 11/28. To my surprise I prefer it and actually spend most of my time on the 52. Im not a racer by any means but I do ride enough to want to get stronger, it only took three months to go from thinking the 50/34 was barely enough for me to appreciating the 52/36.
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Old 08-27-19, 03:06 PM
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If you rarely use the smallest three cogs with a 50x34 you will use them even LESS often with a 52x36.

Spinning out a 50x11, presumably at 110 rpm, would leave you at 41 mph vs 43 mph with 52x11. If you can do that on flat ground you should have that chain ring manufacturer sponsor you.

If you're doing 40 mph while going downhill you might consider going faster by stopping pedaling and going into an aerodynamic tuck.

The 52t chain ring made more sense when the smallest cog was 14. Now that the smallest cog is 11 the only reason for a 52t chain ring is that they are so damn good looking.

We need cassettes that start at 13 or 14 teeth so we can continue to sport Campy Super Record and Stronglight 93 cranks on our show steeds.
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Old 08-27-19, 03:42 PM
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I would make a note of the cassette gears used most with either chainring. In your case the 50T. If most of your riding is in the middle 7 of the 11 gears, Your good to go. limited use of the 9 middle is probably fine two. Only if you are frequently using the two smallest or largest cogs on the cassette would it be worth changing the chainring.

IMO with a gear inch range of 35 - 128 you pretty much have all the bases covered for a road bike. But some hills may not be easy. If anything I would consider switching to a 46/30 chainring like many others have done to provide a more usable 29 - 113 gear inches. You could stay on the 46T ring for more of your ride and get 12% lower with the 30T ring for steeper hills.

I use the 48T chainring with my 48/38/28 triple mostly with a 7 speed 14 - 34T MegaRange cassette. The problem is the jump from 24 - 34T is to big for normal use, So the most usable range is 14 - 24. The resulting 52 - 89 Gear inches is still enough for 90% of my riding on mostly flat terrain. The 46/30 double chainring would be almost perfect for me as I only use the 21 gear inch bailout gear (28 x 34) for climbing 1 steep hill with soft gravel.

Last edited by xroadcharlie; 08-27-19 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 08-27-19, 03:59 PM
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Thank you for the replies. I guess that makes sense that the 35 year old steel road bike with the 53/39 in front would ride as easy or sometimes easier than the 2013 carbon road bike due to the size of the gears on the rear cassette (the big gear on the rear of the six speed cassette is as big as a dessert plate)... the newer road bike has the compact 50/34 chainring.

That was what got me wondering about chainrings is riding my old road bike (given to me Christmas 1985) vs riding my newer road bike (purchased Jan 2015). Newer bike shifts smoother, and is faster, but the gearing on the old steel bike makes it easier to climb hills.
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Old 08-27-19, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by MKahrl View Post
If you rarely use the smallest three cogs with a 50x34 you will use them even LESS often with a 52x36.

Spinning out a 50x11, presumably at 110 rpm, would leave you at 41 mph vs 43 mph with 52x11.
Folks always use the spinning out at 110 or 120 rpm argument against the 52. My thought is that I like riding at a lower cadence when in a group if not pulling. Therefore, if we're doing 30-33 mph on slight downhills or with the wind at our back, I can save 10-20 rpm using a 52x11 vs 50x11. If you never use your easiest gear (34x28 or 34x25, whatever you run), I can't think of a reason not to go with the mid-compact.
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Old 08-27-19, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by RShantz View Post
Therefore, if we're doing 30-33 mph on slight downhills or with the wind at our back, I can save 10-20 rpm using a 52x11 vs 50x11.
The difference would be about 3-4rpm, not 10-20.
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Old 08-27-19, 04:41 PM
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If you NEED to increase your top speed to about 37.6 mph from 36.2 mph then the 52/36 is great. Else its meh ... Im betting most mortals are better off with the 50/34 unless they like pedalling down some steep descends. Im getting a 48t next time.

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Old 08-27-19, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
The difference would be about 3-4rpm, not 10-20.
True. Its about a 4% difference.
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Old 08-27-19, 07:26 PM
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The short answer is if you are not using all the cogs in your cassette, then you should probably get a narrower range.
If you regularly spin out an 11 tooth cog, then a bigger chainset is a good idea.
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Old 08-27-19, 08:17 PM
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I ride a 52/42/30 road triples with a 7 or 8 speed rear cluster in the 11/12-24/28 range. The 11 and 12 cogs really extend the range of the 42 ring. A shift between rings is about a 3 gear change. The 30 is only on there for bailouts. You can ride 3 and 4 gear loops between the rings and not have to physically shift as many times while still covering the entire gear range. I have one climbing ride a year that I put a 50/36/28 and a bigger cassette on. The 50 is the seldom used ring on that ride. Same idea with the 11/12 cogs, 3-4 gear loops and shifting between the rings. Instead of shifting down/up 3 or 4 gears you shift to a different ring then go from there.

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Old 08-27-19, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
If you NEED to increase your top speed to about 37.6 mph from 36.2 mph then the 52/36 is great. Else its meh ... Im betting most mortals are better off with the 50/34 unless they like pedalling down some steep descends. Im getting a 48t next time.

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I've been very happy with 34/48. More time in the big ring, fewer double shifts,

plus others are occasionally fooled into thinking that I am strong rider- going up hills in the big ring.
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Old 08-27-19, 08:31 PM
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I like 52-36 because the percentage jump is smoother than with 50-34. Its a smoother transition for my legs.

HOWEVER, when I went to a 52t chainring, I also bought a cassette with a 12t smallest cog. 52-12 is a shallower gear to push than 50-11 is.
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Old 08-28-19, 07:35 AM
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30 years ago, I pushed my MTB with a touring triple, 52/42/32 and 12-30 6 speed cluster... And my main roadbike had 52/42 and 12-27 or such. I hated to spin, but give me someone to chase down, and I'd spin it all day. Oh, to be that strong and fast today...

OK, I'm not that fast or strong today. That same old steel roadbike today has a 50/34 and a 12-30 cassette. Instead of 2x6, now it's 2x10. I've had a rough 10 years, knee replacement, broken back, achilles tendon repair and needing the other knee done... So no more gear jamming, I've learned to spin more. And I'm not planning to stand to chase anymore. I have nothing to prove today... Having said that, I'm beginning to ride a lightweight machine, that is my reward to myself for losing a LOT of weight this past year. That 2006 Cannondale CAAD8 R1000 has a 53/39, I paired that to a 11-32 cassette. I'm not going to race. And I am not going to struggle on hills if I can help it. I doubt I ever hit that 53-11 on the road, and maybe only on the workstand or if I drop the bike on a trainer.

The bike on my trainer is a 98 Cannondale R200. 3x7 for now. Probably forever. Can't recall the front except the big ring is 52, but the rear is a 12-27. It stays in the big ring, and I rarely hit the 12. Maybe more this coming winter as my endurance and strength improve. My heart rate was limited for most of the past year by my cardiologist (I hate being old enough to need a cardiologist!!!). But am free now for max efforts.
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Old 08-28-19, 08:23 AM
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[QUOTE=MKahrl;21095200]If you rarely use the smallest three cogs with a 50x34 you will use them even LESS often with a 52x36.[/qoute]

He said *bottom* three. Which I interpreted as the largest three, ie: the lowest gears. The smallest three are the top gears.


If you're doing 40 mph while going downhill you might consider going faster by stopping pedaling and going into an aerodynamic tuck.
Plenty of us live in areas where you will never hit 40mph in an aero tuck because the hills are not steep or long enough. But, with appropriate application of power (and tuck) you can get there. I know that race strategy says your power is best spent on the ascent, but when I'm out riding for fun I enjoy chasing a higher max speed. Always have since childhood.



To the OP, I'd only look at sizing up the chainrings if you are spinning out the top gear and are looking for more top speed though. I am in the same situation as you on the edge of going mid compact as well (already have the rings, just gotta install them). I've got plenty of low end on the gearing wand also don't usually use the lowest gears but it's the desire for a higher max that is pushing me to consider more teeth. I'm fine carrying around a few low gears for a bad day or a newfound steep hill, but only if they don't restrict my quest for top speed!
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Old 08-28-19, 10:43 AM
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I used to ride the 53 x smallest gear on my 26 inch Centurion Le Mans 12 speed, but that was 1986-June of 1988 (when I graduated high school and joined the USN), but I was 30 years younger, and a string bean at 175 pounds.... fast forward 30 years and a 20 year sedentary lifestyle and now I am 200 pounds heavier (369 pounds down from 406) and trying to be active.

Now I try to ride for distance and fitness. I was excited when I hit the 25 mile mark for a ride, and then doubly excited when I hit the 50 mile mark for a ride. However, some changes have happened that have caused me to have to redirect my riding time to other tasks and I wasn't on the bike for over six months this year, and barely hit 200 miles riding last year after having a 1200 mile year the year before that.

This is why I put road tread tires on my mountain bike as it has platform pedals I can sneak in a 15-30 minute ride of an evening. I also need to start using my smart trainer again so I can get rides in when I have to stay at home with my nine year old and can't ride outside (this will change as I am planning on buying him a 29er mountain bike so he can ride with me instead of riding his little BMX bike that is now too small for him).
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Old 08-28-19, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by dagray View Post
I currently have the 105 50/34 cranks on my road bike, but have changed everything else out to be 11 speed Ultegra. Would there be any advantage in changing the crankset to a 52/36? I rarely use the bottom three gears on the cassette (11-28), and usually ride on the big chainring except when climbing or fighting wind.

Thank you for any input.
Originally Posted by dagray View Post
I used to ride the 53 x smallest gear on my 26 inch Centurion Le Mans 12 speed, but that was 1986-June of 1988 (when I graduated high school and joined the USN), but I was 30 years younger, and a string bean at 175 pounds.... fast forward 30 years and a 20 year sedentary lifestyle and now I am 200 pounds heavier (369 pounds down from 406) and trying to be active.

Now I try to ride for distance and fitness. I was excited when I hit the 25 mile mark for a ride, and then doubly excited when I hit the 50 mile mark for a ride. However, some changes have happened that have caused me to have to redirect my riding time to other tasks and I wasn't on the bike for over six months this year, and barely hit 200 miles riding last year after having a 1200 mile year the year before that.

This is why I put road tread tires on my mountain bike as it has platform pedals I can sneak in a 15-30 minute ride of an evening. I also need to start using my smart trainer again so I can get rides in when I have to stay at home with my nine year old and can't ride outside (this will change as I am planning on buying him a 29er mountain bike so he can ride with me instead of riding his little BMX bike that is now too small for him).
After seeing both of these posts, I wouldn't bother with the 52-36 crankset,

Get out and ride what you have, or ride the trainer.
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Old 08-28-19, 11:13 AM
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Are you using your 1st (easiest) gear often? If so, are you struggling to keep pedaling when climbing hills using that gear?

I started riding seriously last year and my 1st gear was used a lot when climbing (I currently have a 11-32 rear and 34-50 front). I now climb the same hills using my 2nd or 3rd rear gear so I wouldn't probably have any issue using the 36 tooth chainring & I would benefit from the bigger 52 tooth chainring when going down hills.

My new bike will have a 11-30 rear cassette & 36/52 front chainrings, but that's not why I'm changing. I don't believe it will change much anyways and I do think it's the lowest & highest gears that matters the most, as you can navigate through the others while riding, but can't go lower or higher than these 2.

Last edited by eduskator; 08-28-19 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 08-28-19, 12:40 PM
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always get the biggest chainring that is suitable for your terrain, 52/36 will have longer chainring lifespan and increase drivetrain efficiency compared to 50/34, if you live in a flat area, 54/44 would work the best
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Old 08-28-19, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
My Cervelo came with mid-compact, and I frankly hated it. I would never have been one to guess that a 2-tooth difference could make such a difference, but here we are. I swapped in a set of Praxis compact rings and never looked back. My wife runs "even more compact," with 46/34 rings. AFAIC, a 52 or 53 big ring is for people who are racing, people who like to think that they're racing, and people who never want to use the 11T cog again unless falling down the side of a mountain.
In curiosity I just ran a 52 and a 50 into the bikecalc.com site and got the following from 90 to 100rpm and it's a whole 1.4 mph difference. At 35mph.

A lot of A riders locally that I know that run mids and full size setups are absolute freaking pedal mashers. Their default spin has to be maybe 80rpm. If you can't be bothered to hold a cadence, sure, folks may need that.

I spin 90's mostly. 100+ for hard efforts and such. I can do just fine on a compact. I find not having to swap in-out of the big ring all the time to be nice when riding hills around town. I bet in a 52 or larger I'd probably have to constantly get in and out of the big ring. We've a lot of 2min hills here. That would suck.

If you own Di2 though, who cares about having to swap in/out. It'll do it for you. That changes things. Mechanical? Certainly compact for 90% of riders.
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Old 08-28-19, 03:06 PM
  #23  
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I've played with the online gearing calculators but the only thing that really worked was to just make the gearing changes. On my two old school 7-speed road bikes I've swapped around between the original 52/42 chainrings and various combinations of 50, 39 and 38 chainrings. And between a batch of 7-speed freewheels, from 13-24 to 14-28.

I'd try to ride each combo for about a week, or 2-3 rides of 20-30 miles with enough hills to use the complete gear range. But in some cases the combinations were so awful I'd change 'em immediately after returning home.

For now I'm satisfied with a 50/38 chainring and SunRace 13-28 freewheel on one bike, a 1980s Centurion Ironman. Also good was a 50/39 double and SunRace 13-25 freewheel. I couldn't get along with the Suntour Alpha 13-24 and 13-26 freewheels, so those are back in a box for a maybe-future project. Besides the inappropriate gear steps, they ran noisily with clunky shifting.

The other bike, an early '90s Trek 5900, has 52/42 Biopace with 14-28 Shimano freewheel, with even numbered steps throughout the range so each shift is practically seamless -- very nice for shifting on climbs. I've tried that bike and chainring combo with 13-25 and 13-28 SunRace and the 14-28 Shimano seems about right. Just minor differences in gear steps, but enough to make a difference on climbs when I'm close to exhausted. The last thing we want on a hot summer day when we're on that umpteenth endless hill with false flats is a jarring gear shift taking us out of our rhythm.

So for me it's mostly try 'em and swap 'em until I'm happy.
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Old 08-28-19, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
I. Im getting a 48t next time.

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Me too! I have a 50/34 and my 50/36 I don't have an issue climbing on ether version but am simply not strong enough for a lack of better words to use the 50 in the smaller cassette gears. I know 48 isn't a huge change but I bet getting down the cassette will be just a touch better. I am going to try it....I don't need to descend at 45mph for any reason anymore!
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Old 08-28-19, 06:24 PM
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This is interesting to me. I've been riding a Guru steel with 50/34 (10 sp) and I recently bought a CAAD 12 with 52/36 (11 sp). Both bikes weigh about 17 lb 11 oz. Both bikes feel amazingly quick and nimble. Two of the best bikes I've ever ridden. But, for reasons I cannot explain, the Guru seems to be a bit faster. I'm guessing that when I get into the higher gears I'm not strong enough to spin the 52x11 as well as I can spin the 50x11 and this actually slows me down. Would love some opinions because it's a mystery to me.
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